Friday, April 30, 2010


And so today, I embark on this journey back to Kaz. I'm excited about giving back to the children left behind and to the country that gave us two of our greatest gifts.

Thank you so much to all of you who made this trip possible through donations and cookies! I truly could not be going without your support. Please continue to pray and think of all of us as we travel - for safety, for good flights, and for all of our luggage to make it. We have many, many bags of donations - thanks to those who contributed to those as well!

My hope is to blog while I'm there so stay tuned for that! Off to parent/teacher conferences and to complete a few last minute errands, then a tough goodbye for my boys before Andrew takes me to the airport!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Melt My Heart

Yesterday, Titus and I went to pick the boys up from school. When the boys came out of the classroom, Titus did happy dance, said "yay," and ran to give them great big hugs. It was totally sweet and I totally fell in love all over again with all of my sons. I love that. And I'm so emotional that I'm pretty sure there were tears in my eyes. Titus adores his big brothers and it's definitely mutual. What a blessed momma I am!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Leaving on a Jet Plane

Well, this is the week. I leave for Kazakhstan on Friday and return home on May 9. The anticipation of leaving the boys and Andrew is making me a bit of an emotional mess. It will be hard but we know that our family has been called to participate in this mission by sending me.

I'm no where near ready. In fact, I'm so far from ready that it's hard for me to believe that I will actually have things in order by Friday. Having everything converge at once (new job, moving home, and leaving for Kaz) was unplanned and has proven very challenging. I feel bad that things at home will likely not be as organized and prepared as I hoped.

So on the agenda this week:
- Pack
- Continue unpacking and organizing the house.
- Work (this afternoon and Thursday).
- Bring birthday snack for Patrick - Tuesday.
- Make easy menu plan and get groceries for while I'm gone.
- Set out and label clothes for the boys for next week.
- Make a lion (I though zebra but I was wrong!) costume.
- Parent/Teacher Conferences on Friday morning.
- Put together letters, paper chain, special gifts, and snacks for the boys.

I'm going to take it one thing at a time. While it will be a busy week, it will also help keep me distracted from leaving the boys. :)

Going back to Kazakhstan is, in many ways, a dream come true for me. I look forward to building the playground for the sweet kiddos - I see how much mine love going to the park and know that this will bring so much joy! Most of all, I look forward to holding, cuddling, and playing with the children. It will be hard and I'm certain my heart will break a hundred times but showing them love and concern and interest is worth it. There will likely be 1 or 10 or 100 or more that I will carry in my heart forever.

This will be a life-changing trip and I know that there is little that can prepare me. I pray that my eyes and heart will be further opened. I pray that we can bring love, joy and hope. And I pray that we can make a difference in the lives of these precious children. Children that did not choose to be orphans.

If you think of it, please pray for the health, safety, and unity of the team. Pray for the work we will do. And please pray for our families at home - I know it's tough for all of us to leave our spouses and kids.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010


I'm breaking my inadvertent but very necessary blog break to write a post for Calvin's birthday! I feel all teary eyed that my oldest is turning 5!!! Where has the time gone? Kindergarten is next year and I'm just not ready.

Dear Calvin,

I hardly know where to begin. You are such a funny and delightful son! You enjoy learning and have lots of questions about how things work and why things happen. Maps fascinate you and sometimes you ask me to draw them for you. You are a total ham and love nothing more than to make everyone laugh. You have a twinkle in your eye that won't quit! You have a ton of energy and keep us not only entertained but busy!

Calvin, you are so good at art and you love music. You frequently change what you want to be when you grow up but one thing remains, you want to help people. I think that's amazing. You continually inspire me with the way you handle your speech therapy and doctor's appointments - you are patient, cooperative, and gracious. I know it isn't always easy!

This year, you have really begun to verbalize your faith. You share many things with us and are concerned about others. Your simple belief and faith challenge me.

You are a great big brother (well, most of the time! :)). Watching you and your brothers enjoy each other brings me great joy.

You are such a blessing, Calvin. I love being your mom! And I love you always and forever. You are a special boy and I'm so glad you are my son - you are a wonderful gift from God. HAPPY 5th BIRTHDAY!

Mommy (aka Alaina - as you like to occasionally call me!)

Tuesday, April 13, 2010


We are so ready to be home and we are relieved that they are done cleaning! We do a walk through tomorrow to make sure everything is okay and up to our standards.

In our eagerness to be home there is also the realization at how much work it will be to settle back in. There are no clothes in the closets or drawers or bins, there are no sheets on the beds, and no curtains or blinds on the windows; there are no spices in the cupboards, no pasta or cereal or dried fruit or nuts or very many groceries at all. In fact, we will have a truck bringing back all of our clothing etc. and I will have to plan a major grocery shopping trip.

In many ways, it will be like returning from a very long, very disorganized, unexpected vacation except with clean clothes instead of dirty but nothing put away. We are debating how best to begin returning back to normal. There is a big part of us that would like to take time to de-junk and clean out a lot of stuff - clearly we don't need it since we've been fine without it. :) But there is another part of us that just wants to do that after we move back. We'll see what happens - probably some of both.

It's overwhelming to think about all of it. It's been such a challenging month and yet, we are so thankful for this time as a family and for the lower-key life that it has led to. Sometimes it's nice to have a break from the normal demands of home ownership. The kids have done remarkably well - we've definitely had our challenges but overall they have been troopers. The dog has also shown incredible amounts of flexibility and while we thought we might have to kennel her, she has done so well here with us.

We are looking forward to being on the other side of this adventure. I think it will be a few weeks before things really settle down again, though.

Friday, April 09, 2010


Tomorrow is the boys' first soccer game and they are excited! I find it a little bittersweet - they are growing up! We will definitely take a picture of them in their cute little uniforms.

Blogging has been hard this week. The few posts I've done have not flowed and have taken more time than usual to write. Not sure why but it's made me not want to blog much. I intended to post more pictures from Easter and Spring Break but still haven't gotten that done either. I have been doing a lot of Sudoku puzzles which has been fun! I hadn't picked one up in years.

I think I've just found myself frustrated. Parenting has been extra hard especially this week. Good attitudes, obedience, respect, and kindness have been replaced with...well, the opposite. It's disappointing and challenging as we seek to train the hearts of our sons and as I find myself struggling to respond with grace and patience. And so I am feeling very weary and working very hard to notice (and praise) the good behavior and have positive interactions with each child in addition to the correction. It all measures up to feeling like a failure in the parenting department a lot of the week.

The week has been busy between soccer starting, practice being cancelled and rescheduled, regular school, and the trip to Chicago. So I guess all of that has contributed to a tough week here in our home away from home. Just keeping it real here.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Calvin Update

(Calvin & me before leaving Steph's for our full day!)
And...we're back. It was a long day yesterday at Shriner's Hospital but as always, it was a pleasure interacting with everyone. We feel incredibly blessed to be a part of such a great cranio-facial team (if you are new to our blog, Calvin was born with a cleft lip and palate)! Calvin was recognized a couple of times from their promotional brochure which was cute - I don't think he even remembers that he was featured.

We travelled to stay at my sister's house the night before. We weren't there very long at all but we really enjoyed seeing her new place, visiting until too late, and it put us an hour closer. We left her place at 6 in the morning and I navigated our way into Chicago - I pretty much HATE driving in Chicago.

Calvin's appointment started at 8 and we finished around 3:30. He saw many, many doctors and professionals. His developmental assessment went very well, all of the doctors are thrilled with how great his lip looks, and he charmed the speech pathologist. He passed his hearing test which was shocking to me - I think he has started some bad habits of selective hearing! :) His tubes are out but the holes in his ear drum have not healed yet. We will return in 4 months and have another audiology test and visit the ENT to determine if tubes will be required. They recommend we increase his speech therapy if we can and are working with us to get our insurance to cover more. No surgery is planned for now and we will return for a full team appointment in about a year. We anticipate another big surgery in 2-4 years.

All in all, a good report. I'm always overwhelmed with how kind, understanding, and knowlegeable everyone is at the end of these clinic days . I find myself choking back tears of gratitude. We have many more years of surgery, dental work, and follow-up and we are so thankful for this amazing hospital.

We ended our day with a stop at my grandparents house. They were so gracious to let us come with pretty much no notice. Calvin woke up enough when we got home to tell Andrew about visiting with them. Definitely a highlight of our whirlwind trip.

So there you have it, we are our hotel. :) The other good news is that we are hopefully going to be home sometime mid-late next week. We can't wait!!!

Monday, April 05, 2010


Here are a few photos from Easter. I may post a few more later this week (especially of the egg hunt!) but this will have to do for now!
The Loot! :)
Trying unsuccessfully to get a decent picture. :) They all had vests which I had gotten a couple of months before Easter but unfortunately they are somewhere in storage at the cleaners. Oh well. And Calvin already ripped his shirt - first wearing, brand-new. Sigh.

Ty immediately knew that this was a water bottle - I'm amazed at his comprehension! He also quickly figured out where the candy was in the eggs!

Calvin intently looked at each item. He was so excited about everything!

Patrick was absolutely thrilled with his new cars and his Lightening McQueen socks!

And The Winners Are...

#6 and #15 - thanks to the random number generator!
Congrats to Elizabeth F. and Tammy F.!
I will get those prizes out after we move back home. :) Hope you enjoy! Thank you again to all of you for reading and visiting my little spot on the web!
And now we will return to regular programming. :)

Sunday, April 04, 2010


- It's been 15 days since we moved out of our house. It still smells pretty bad - the same to us. And we have no idea when we will be able to move back in. We are weary and I am definitely fighting discouragement. Andrew returns to work after working half-time or a little less last week. I'm dreading it.

- I never thought I would say this, but I am officially sick of breakfast food. They have a lovely breakfast here and that often ends up being one of our more main meals. I'm just getting really tired of it. I want vegetables! :) We have a two-burner stove top but no oven so we've just been having light lunches of yogurt, apples, cheese, crackers, etc.

- Wednesday, I'm taking Calvin to Chicago for his annual appointment at Shriner's Hospital. I anticipate a very long day and I expect him to need surgery for another set of ear tubes. We know his tubes are out and judging by the number of "huhs?" and "whats?," we think it likely that he will not pass the hearing tests. He never has except when the tubes are in place.

- Today started off very challenging (I won't bore you with the stressful details) but really was a lovely Easter. My mom hosted and it was my brother and his wife, my two youngest brothers, our family, my parents, and my grandma for dinner. The meal was delicious. My contributions were whipped sweet potatoes and a 4-layer key lime white chocolate cake. We gave the boys their Easter baskets and hid eggs while they were napping. They all had such a good time hunting for them. I did miss church since Titus just hasn't been feeling the best and is super grumpy.

- The boys start soccer tomorrow evening. They are very excited. I'm looking forward to it also - though realizing that it is likely the start of many years of sports. With three active, mostly athletic boys, I think it's inevitable. It will be fun and I look forward to cheering them on in whatever their endeavors may be.

- Pictures to come after I charge the camera battery - unfortunately it died right in the middle to the egg hunt. :) Hope you had a wonderful day!

Friday, April 02, 2010

Look, It's A...

...snake! Yes, we have joined the ranks of having little boys who love snakes. You may already know this, but I am deathly afraid of snakes. There is little else that makes me shudder and run and scream like a snake does. I don't even like the plastic ones, the rubber ones, or the wood ones - a fact that my brothers exploited on many occasions. I'm pretty sure I went into hysterical sobbing one night when they snuck one into my bed. It's okay, you can laugh.

I've overcome this fear enough to take the kids through the very dark and scary snake exhibit at the zoo and to talk to them about the different kinds and colors. You see, I don't want them to have the same, somewhat irrational, fear. And so yesterday, when I bribed them to leave the crowded zoo with a visit to the gift shop (we pretty much NEVER set foot in it but I was desperate and they don't have many things to play with at the hotel...can you tell I'm justifying it? :)), one of my sons decided to choose this:

I aquiesced and was super happy he chose hot pink because it doesn't look quite as real as some of the others. I decided and purposed that I would be okay with it. But you know what? Within 5 minutes of getting back to our room for naps, that snake had scared me. My son put it under the bed and I saw what I thought was a shoelace sticking out - I pulled on it and jumped. It was that snake. I guess some things never really change. Don't tell my kids how scared I am - I can only imagine how much mileage they would get out of that... :) We'll just keep that secret between us.

Don't forget to enter my 1,000th post giveaway of a few of my favorite things!

Thursday, April 01, 2010

The Truth

There is something that stopped me in my tracks the other day and I've been contemplating it ever since. One of my kids informed me that he was "starving, mom." And I started to admonish him that he doesn't know what it means to be starving and then I stopped. The truth is, he may actually know - it's me that doesn't. It broke my heart.

There are children all over the world that are starving every day - at least one of my sons (and possibly both of the olders ones at some point) know what that means. It doesn't matter if they remember it or not, the fact is that it's part of their life story. So no, I won't, I can't tell them that they don't know or understand - those words are for me and my privileged life.

My eyes were opened a little more.